(Adds comment from finance minister)
By Andrea Hopkins
TORONTO, May 13 (Reuters) - Canadian home prices rose in April from a month earlier, the fourth straight monthly increase, but the pace of the gains was slower than in March and the hot markets of Toronto and Vancouver were flat, the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index showed on Wednesday.
The index, which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed national home prices rose 0.2 percent last month from March. Prices were up 4.4 percent from a year earlier and hit a new high nationally. The index does not provide actual prices.
While prices stayed at record highs in Toronto and Vancouver and in the nation as a whole, corrections were underway in some other major cities, so the flat readings in Toronto and Vancouver could herald the start of a broader market cooling.
“Excluding the recession year 2009, the monthly change is tied with that of April 2013 for the smallest April advance in 17 years of index data,” the Teranet report said.
Canada escaped the U.S. housing market crash of six years ago, but analysts have long fretted about the length of its housing boom. They are divided over whether an eventual slowdown will be a U.S.-style collapse or a soft landing.
Finance Minister Joe Oliver, speaking to reporters in New York on Wednesday, reiterated the Conservative government’s position that the market is not over-inflated.
“We’re monitoring the residential market as we always do, and we don’t believe we’re in a bubble. If there is a decline, we think it would be a soft landing, but I‘m not predicting that,” Oliver said.
He also noted the presence of a two-tier market in Toronto and Vancouver, where sales of high-priced homes can skew price data.
While prices in those two markets, the country’s hottest, were little changed, there were gains in several other cities, the report showed. That bucks the trend of Toronto and Vancouver, which account for 54 percent of the composite index, holding up the national market.
The Teranet-National Bank price index showed prices were up 1.9 percent in Winnipeg, 1.7 percent in Quebec City, 1.0 percent in Montreal, 0.7 percent in Halifax, 0.6 percent in Edmonton and 0.2 percent in Calgary, where the market has been sideswiped by a drop in oil prices.
Prices were down 0.7 percent in Ottawa, 0.2 percent in Victoria and 0.1 percent in Hamilton, the index showed. (Additional reporting by Jonathan Spicer in New York; Editing by Peter Galloway)